WHO experts to arrive in Wuhan for delayed virus probe

A team of experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) will land directly in Wuhan on Thursday, China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday, starting their long-delayed probe into Covid-19 at the virus’ epicentre.

The 10 scientists will investigate the origins of the new virus in a politically fraught mission that comes more than a year after the pandemic began and after accusations Beijing has tried to thwart the project.

The WHO team will leave from Singapore and fly straight to Wuhan, the central city where the first cluster of cases was detected in December 2019.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters this was the “current plan” and said the WHO team was set to arrive Thursday.

It is expected that they will have to complete two weeks of quarantine due to China’s strict border restrictions.


The investigation had been set to start last week but a last-minute hold up over entry permissions in China scuppered plans.

Marion Koopmans, part of the team and head of the viroscience department at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University Medical Centre, said they wanted to “reconstruct” how the pandemic started.

“I think it would be the start of a probably longer term project,” she told Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.

Beijing has argued that Wuhan is not necessarily the source of the virus, and officials have pushed theories that it began abroad.

When asked about the chance that the virus could have emerged overseas, Koopmans said the WHO team would “have an open mind to all hypotheses.”

“At this stage I don’t think we should rule anything out, but it is important to start where, obviously in Wuhan, a big outbreak occurred,” she said.

Experts say solving the mystery of how the virus first jumped from animals to humans is crucial to preventing another pandemic.

The WHO insisted this week that the investigation was not looking for “somebody to blame”.

Emergencies director at the UN health body Michael Ryan said the delayed mission was about science, not politics.

“Understanding the origins of disease is not about finding somebody to blame,” Ryan told a press conference in Geneva.

“It is about finding the scientific answers about the very important interface between the animal kingdom and the human kingdom.”

The novel coronavirus has killed nearly two million people since the outbreak first emerged in Wuhan.

Thousands of mutations in the virus have taken place as it has passed from person to person around the world, but new variants recently detected in Britain and South Africa are seemingly more contagious.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Agence France Presse
Agence France Presse works from worldwide. AFP Photo's official Twitter account. Tweeting news and features from Agence France-Presse's global photo network Agence France Presse has over 120540 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: George Euvrard, the brains behind our cryptic crossword

George Euvrard spoke to Athandiwe Saba about his passion for education, clues on how to solve his crosswords and the importance of celebrating South Africa.

Poachers in prisons tell their stories

Interviews with offenders provide insight into the structure of illegal wildlife trade networks

More top stories

Racial bias against black medical practitioners ‘reflects fissures of an...

The testimonials of black doctors have given credence to allegations of racial profiling. Of those listed on a Gems blacklist, 94% of general practitioners were black

Why great white sharks are disappearing from South Africa’s coastline

Government panel blames killer whales for the depleted population of great white sharks, but experts say overfishing is the big culprit that is not being addressed

R100-billion needed to staunch KZN’s water woes

Municipalities have failed to maintain their existing infrastructure for providing residents with water

Niehaus has 48 hours to state why he should not...

The MKMVA spokesperson has been asked to give reasons why he should not be fired from his position at Luthuli House after attacking Jesse Duarte last week
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…